History of Science Collection

The Library holds one of the best collections of rare printed science, technology, and engineering works in the world.

History of Science Collection

We hold one of the best collections of rare printed science, technology, and engineering works in the world. For example, we hold 9 of every 10 works listed in Harrison Horblit’s One Hundred Books Famous in Science and Bern Dibner’s Heralds of Science. Our History of Science Collection also houses early scientific periodicals, including all issues of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, beginning in 1665, and the Acta Eruditorum, beginning in 1682. The collection has particularly strong holdings in astronomy, geology and paleontology, natural history, engineering, mathematics, and the physical sciences. Other scientific publications, such as star atlases and encyclopedic works of early natural history, are also well represented.

The special collections at Linda Hall Library existed at the time of opening in 1946. We acquired the library of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which included titles that provided a foundation for the rare book collection. The transfer of the Engineering Societies Library in 1995 provided the Library with hundreds of additional early books on engineering, mathematics, physics, geology, and related sciences, as well as the Ball Collection of Gemology. Recent additions of note include the observation logs and journals of astronomer David Levy and the A.B. Nichols Panama Canal Collection.

Accessing the Collection

Special collections at the Linda Hall Library are open by appointment to all readers whose work requires use of materials in the collection. The History of Science Rare Book Room is open 10:00 am until 4:45 pm Monday through Friday. Please complete the History of Science Reading Room Appointment Request Form to schedule an appointment at least 48 hours in advance. The latest available appointment time is 3:45 p.m. Readers are encouraged to acquaint themselves with the Library’s holdings and to gather preliminary information needed to identify and locate materials relevant to their work by searching the library catalog. Staff are available for reference consultations by request.

Classes seeking a presentation with rare books from our collection should complete the Virtual Book Session form, which details requirements for arranging a rare book presentation. One-month advance notice required.